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Cressida Pollock: ‘I was publicly trashed following my appointment at ENO’

Cressida Pollock Outgoing ENO chief executive Cressida Pollock
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Outgoing English National Opera chief executive Cressida Pollock has claimed she was “publicly trashed” when her appointment was announced three years ago.

Pollock, who was appointed to turn around the finances of the troubled company, has also spoken of the challenges of being a woman in the top role.

In a panel discussion on women in power at the Women of the World Festival at London’s Southbank Centre, Pollock addressed the scrutiny she faced in the job.

During the panel, Southbank Centre artistic director Jude Kelly argued that, for women to win power and trust, they needed to prove themselves more than men in a role, adding that this had been the case for Pollock at ENO.

Responding, Pollock said: “As the outgoing CEO, I have much more freedom to say this right now – I was a deeply unexpected appointment even for myself and then I got very publicly trashed, and it was even more difficult to sit there and think, ‘How do I do this?’”

She added: “What’s always challenging is there’s so much scrutiny, and I do think the language the press and other people use is different. I got called steely, I got called formidable, I got called tough. I wanted to embrace those words, but every time someone said something like that to me, a little part of me died, because that is not how I meant to be.”

Pollock argued that it was “incredibly confusing” to be called these things in “what felt like a slightly pejorative manner”, when she was “hired to be all those things”.

She added: “I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on what I’m doing next, but also what that experience has been like, and it has been really wonderful over the past few months to start thinking proudly of myself.”

Pollock is leaving ENO this summer, just three years into her tenure. Her comments come as ENO announces the appointment of Stuart Murphy, former director of Sky Entertainment Channels, as its new chief executive.